Live Updates: Students protest Kavanaugh’s nomination to Supreme Court


Cullen Granzen / Beacon Staff

Emerson students co-organized a rally to stand with survivors of sexual assault and call on Republican Sen. Jeff Flake to reject Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court at City Hall Plaza Monday. Flake is scheduled to lead a panel entitled “Future of the Republican Party” at the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit located in City Hall Plaza. This is a developing story, check back for updates.

City Hall Plaza 12:30 p.m.

President M. Lee Pelton said he is proud of the civic engagement of Emerson students. He said he recognizes the impact Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination has made on women.

“These women have suffered in silence for many, many years,” Pelton said in an interview. “I’m very pleased that our students have given their voice to this important issue.”

When prompted on Doctor Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, Pelton said he believes her.

“Yes, I do believe her,” he said. “I believe her without reservations. I know she is one of many women who have been assaulted.”

When Pelton canceled Flake’s original appearance at the Colonial Theatre due to safety concerns, student organizers moved the protest to City Hall Plaza. This expanded the space for the protestors and spurred a media flurry as politicians lined up to speak in opposition to Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Alumna Jen Deaderick ‘94 said she dropped off her child at school and rushed to the protest. She claimed no surprise at Emerson students’ organization of the protest.

“I always assume everything is done by Emerson students. I’m not surprised. We go out and we do these things,” she said. “We make stuff happen.”

Deaderick hopes Senator Flake will listen to protestors and take swift action on defining the legacy of the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court is just nine people. We have hundreds of millions of people in these country. Those nine people should be exceptional people,” she said. “[Judge Kavanaugh] is not an exceptional person.”

City Hall Plaza, 12 p.m.

Emerson students take the stage and organizers Mari Sitner and Erin Swauger speak to the crowd.

“I am honored to be a part of this, I am honored to fight for survivors everywhere and I am proud because what we started as a small student-led protest at Emerson has turned into this powerful crowd,” Swauger said.

Sophomore Annie Noel spoke after Swauger and shared her experiences of how sexual assault hits close to home.

“When I was growing up, I was told to watch what I wore, to watch what I did,” Noel said. “All three of my assailant were people I know, were people I grew up with, people I trusted.”

The protest ended soon after the students spoke.

Forbes Under 30 Village, 12 p.m.

The Future of the Republican Party Panel carried on at the Colonial Theatre without Sen. Jeff Flake who was scheduled to join Governor of Ohio John Kasich. Kasich answered questions from the moderator about the current political climate in the United States saying the zero-sum game—the concept that if one person wins the other loses—has penetrated almost every aspect of American society.

“[The Kavanaugh hearing] is a good example of the zero sum game and why we need to avoid it,” he said in an interview after the panel discussion. “I called for an FBI investigation the day before the hearing and we now are going to have one. I’m going to reserve judgment until I see what the FBI reports.”

City Hall Plaza, 11:30 a.m.

The crowd extended from City Hall to the MBTA Government Center station.

The crowd roared as Congressional Candidate Ayanna Pressley took the stage. Pressley yelled to the crowd and the Forbes Under 30 village to reckon if Sen. Flake could hear them.

“There are many parts that make up my identity. Chief among them I am black, I am a woman, and I am a survivor,” she said. “Brett Kavanaugh is not entitled to a lifetime appointment.”

Sen. Karen Spilka of Massachusetts asked the crowd to raise their hands if they knew a victim of sexual assault. Hundreds did so in response.

“I’d like to speak to Senator Flake … the responsibility that [senators] hold and the trust that others put in us is truly awe-inspiring,” Spilka said. “This country could use some real senators right now.”

Sophomore Luis Mercado attended the protest as part of an advanced audiovisual journalism course. He said the demonstration serves as a learning opportunity in breaking news.

“I’m learning how to cover breaking news, how to cover a major event, and how to use our technology for coverage,” he said.

Sophomore Samantha Woolf sat on the plaza floor, recording video of speakers for class.

“It’s incredibly amazing for me to be this close to such monumental government leaders and survivors,” she said. “It’s extremely exciting for me as a journalist to be this close to such breaking and important news.”

City Hall Plaza, 11 a.m.

Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts Rebecca Holder was the first person to take the stage and speak to a crowd of about 400. She thanked Mayor Walsh for making the protest possible.

“I just want to take a moment to thank the students from Emerson College who helped launch this,”  Holder said.

Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts said Christine Blasey Ford did the U.S. a service by coming forward and testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I applaud her for her courage, [and] we owe her a deep debt of gratitude,” Markey said. “She has given new meaning to what it means to be a good citizen of the United States of America.”

Delia Harrington,  a committee member of the The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, said the last few weeks have made her consider that someday, she may be in Dr. Fords shoes.

“To every survivor out there I want to say: I believe you … Dr. Ford’s not a scared teenager anymore and neither am I,” Harrington said.

Kathryn Smith, a freshman writing, literature and publishing major, said she watched all eight hours of Ford’s testimony and went to bed feeling helpless. When she heard about the protest, she felt motivated to attend.

“This is something I can do. I can get out and be active and have a voice,” she said.

Mayor Walsh said he supports and believes Ford.

“I was walking around before we started this morning, and one of the young women who goes to Emerson grabbed me and she said to me ‘what are you going to do about what’s happening?’” Walsh said “That question is right. What are we going to do with what’s happening?”

City Hall Plaza, 10:30 a.m.

About 200 protestors crowded outside city hall as Boston City Mayor Marty Walsh ambled through the crowd shaking hands. Walsh said the Senate Judiciary Committee did not vet the Supreme Court Candidate Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

“I hope that Senator Flake, when he comes to Boston today, sees the passion here and the concern here of the appointment for Brett Kavanaugh,” Walsh said. “I mean he clearly is not the right person for the United States Supreme Court.”

Sen. Flake’s panel will occur from 1-2 p.m. at City Hall Plaza in the Under 30 Village, according to a Forbes Media Spokeswoman

Sophomore Annie Noel and senior Erin Swauger, co-organizers of the protest, held up a banner that read “#StopKavanaugh.”

Swauger said that the protest turnout exceeded her expectations. “I’m completely overwhelmed in the best way,” she said. “I never thought that starting something in my bed on a Friday could turn out like this.”

City Hall Plaza, 10 a.m.

Sen. Jeff Flake is scheduled to speak at 10:30 a.m. at a stage only 100 yards from where protest leaders and City Officials are slated to speak. About 200 protestors have gathered in front of City Hall steps holding signs that read “Kav Lied, Vote no” and “KavaNope.”

Senior Vice President of Communication for Forbes Media Matthew Hutchison said in a statement via text message to the Beacon that the Under 30 Summit gathers young entrepreneurs and leaders.

“The Under 30 Summit is a vibrant marketplace of ideas and discussion, and we respect Sen. Flake — and speakers from all points of view — whose decisions have far-reaching impact for society,” Hutchison said in a statement.

Forbes Under 30 Summit Main Stage, 10 a.m.

Business owner and summit attendee Lynn Le is planning to silently protest during the panel by standing and raising her fist into the air.

“Should we get ejected, that’s a clear demonstration of how society’s going wrong here,” she said.

The two are dressed in black to stand in solidarity with victims of sexual assault.

City Hall Plaza, 9:30 a.m.

Organizers from the ACLU, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, and Emerson student organizer Sophomore Annie Noel are gathering at City Hall Plaza for the “Tell Jeff Flake to Reject Kavanaugh” protest.  Boston Police Department and City Hall officials set-up barricades creating a buffer zone between City Hall, Forbes Under 30 Village St., and the area where protestors will begin to rally at 10 a.m.

Spokeswoman(CQ) for Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts Johanna Kaiser(CQ) said Planned Parenthood joined as a co-organizer of the protest because of their close working relationship with NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts.

“As a group, we decided that this was something that was really important for us as organizations that care deeply about reproductive rights [and] for organizations that care deeply about survivors of sexual assault,” Kaiser said.  

Cheryl Jackson, professor of Advanced Audio Visual reporting, invited her class to the plaza today as an opportunity for students to practice breaking-news reporting.

“I wanted them to have real world experience with one of the biggest news stories, maybe the biggest news story in America right now,” Jackson said. “[Senator Flake] is right here. It’s a local story now.”

Forbes Under 30 Summit Main Stage, 9:30 a.m. 

Forbes Under 30 Summit is preparing the main stage for the “Future of the Republican Party” panel with Arizona Senator Jeff Flake and Governor of Ohio John Kasich. The outdoor stage, sitting in the shadow of Boston’s City Hall, is about 100 yards away from the protest. The panel is scheduled to kick off at 10:30 a.m.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Chris Van Buskirk, Stefania Lugli, Maya Gacina, and Parker Purifoy contributed reporting.